Friday, October 21, 2016

Up and Running.

Another beautiful sunset.
The new tunnel beds are just about completed, just two pathways to finish.
Both of the longer beds are now planted up, one with spinach and spring cabbage,
Onion and garlic bed.
the other long bed is home to forty garlics and one hundred and fifty onions, these onions should be ready by the end of May.
Lough Key Crab Apple flowering 
This month has been very mild and very dry, the garden is not sure whether it's Spring or Autumn,
we have a crab apple tree that has decided to flower again
Oct, and still Delphiniums bloom.
and we have a Delphinium in flower. The roses are still blooming, and one of the Clematis hasn't stop blooming since May  it's still got lots of buds, the  dahlias also continue to flower giving me plenty of flowers for the house.
Latest project.
With the shorter nights I have started a tapestry, this is for a cushion cover, I had intended to redo a seat of an inherited chair, but changed my mind, there is nothing wrong with the chair seat, it just need to be removed and cleaned, then put back again.
Trees are now getting lovely colour, it's a shame that once they change colour they don't hang on to the leafs for long. I love to see the Autumn colour.
Wagtails are back.
We now have lots of Wagtails around, they returned in large numbers earlier this week. Of all the birds we get visiting us Wagtails are the biggest tease to the cats, they sit just out of range and time it perfectly to jump away just at the moment a cat is going to spring, we have never seen a Wagtail caught, they are quicker than the cats.
Robbie. 1999-2016 R.I.P. Old Chap.
Earlier this week we had to say goodbye to Robbie, our seventeen year old Jack Russell. He had arthritis for several years and was also loosing his sight, he was also wetting his bed. It's never fair to keep an animal if it has lost it's dignity. He was the sweetest chap, never chased the cats or poultry, and was an excellent house dog. We will miss him he was part of out life for so long.
Still plenty of flowers for the house.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Extending the season.

With the weather being so unpredictable we decided that we would put more land under cover, there seems to be little in the way of normal weather nowadays, it can be quite disheartening to plant out seedlings or plants at what should be the correct time and then lose them due to unseasonable weather.
This was this years potato patch, ideal for the new tunnel.
The new tunnel is the same size as the other one, 18X20 ft.
Hoops all in place.
The company who supplied and installed it were very professional,
Up with the cover.
they arrived on time and on the right day, (maybe a first for Ireland) and had the whole job completed in just four hours despite there being quite a wind.
Four hours latter, the finished job.
The tunnel is a tight as a drum.
We had not got  the timbers for the raised beds as we didn't want to litter up the site with unnecessary obstructions, but as soon as they had finished yesterday we were off to get the first ten scaffold boards, today we have picked up the second load. Second-hand scaffold boards are a good way of making raised beds without spending a fortune, under cover they last very well, and even the ones in the veg garden are showing no signs of rotting after five years. The new tunnel will have seven raised beds in total, one will be for permanent planting, such as our fig tree which does not like being outside, we are also getting a second peach tree, they do very well in a tunnel. That will leave us six beds so we can have a good rotation with the first tunnel. It will be good having two uncover areas when it's raining cats and dogs outside.
Another giant cauliflower.
The veg garden is still producing well, for some reason our late cauliflowers are huge, weighing in at at least three pounds after trimming and eight inches across. The Calabrese is also still giving us lots of heads.
A three legged carrot.
Carrots always do well for us but I have no idea why this one should have produced three  forks, the bed has received no manure or compost for at least two years.
 We are getting a few Autumn raspberries but for us they don't do as well as the summer varieties. Physalis is another thing that always does well for us, the vines are now four years old and still producing well.
Red oak.
Blue berry.
My favourite shrub, Spindle, masses of berries this year.
There is now a lot of colour from the trees and bushes,
More blueberry colour.
but the flower gardens are still giving us lots of flowers for the house, so many things have giving us a second blooming.
The overflow bed, for all the herbaceous plants that need splitting. 
The O.H has also created another flower bed for me to take the overflow. I have so many plants crying out to be divided this bed will be full before I know it. I still have masses of bulbs to be planted as well, due to sciatica I haven't been able to do much in the garden, but it is slowly getting better.
Half a free range pig, butchered by Matt who did a great job. 
Having decided to not keep pigs anymore has given us a problem in obtaining good pork. Organic pork is very hard to get and in fact we are on a waiting list with the farmer who supplies us with beautiful beef, but it will be six months or more before he has any. Free range pork just does not exist in the shops, so it is a case of knowing someone who 'does pigs'. Fortunately we do know someone like this, we know the pigs were well looked after and enjoyed their outside life, we meet them a couple of times and they were happy pigs, so we managed to buy half a pig, free range, and very local, they were reared just eight miles away, we will be having local free range pork chops for dinner tonight.
Freddie likes a bird eye view. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Autumn harvests.

A beautiful sunset.
The weather is being very kind at the moment, sunny dry days, making working outside very pleasant. The area where the potatoes were grown has been completely cleared along with the runner beans and a couple of raised beds in preparation for the installation of a second tunnel, this  is the same size as our other tunnel, 18X 20 ft and will be arranged with seven raised beds. Unlike all our previous tunnels this one we are having installed by the company supplying it, we are getting too old and suffering from creaky bones to go through the hard graft of tunnel installation. It will be pure heaven watching other people doing the graft for us. having the second tunnel will make it easier to rotate the beds. First to be planted will be garlic and onions, we have some cauliflower seedlings coming along so they will also go into the new tunnel. We have decided that we need a second peach tree, the fruit that we get from the existing tree are the best peaches we have ever tasted, that includes any that we had in Spain, we also have a fig tree which so far has only fruited once for us outside and we love fresh figs, hopefully this will produce some fruit for us.
Sulphur Tuft, not edible.
Last Sunday was the 'Fungi Hunt' organised by the Organic Gardens at Knockvicar, we had both hoped to go however I am suffering from sciatica so had to give it a miss.
Ripe puff balls, not edible.

Unripe puff balls, edible.
By all accounts it was a good day  out with around thirty different fungi found, three of which are worth eating, several others although not poisonous were edible but not particularly pleasant.
Birch bracket fungus, not edible.
 Simon had hoped that by going on a fungi hunt with someone 'who knows' about fungi might have brought out some hidden gems that we have been missing,
Cortinarius ? not edible.
however Simons knowledge of fungi was about the same as the 'one who knows' so apart from a lovely walk not much was gained.
Back to the centre to identify all the finds.
In total there were fifteen people on the walk, including several children.
 One thing we miss about Spain is the fungi, forests and fields are full of beautiful edible fungi especially at this time of year, and the Spanish are well into foraging, so much so that the law is that fungi must be cut, not pulled. Anyone found mushroom foraging without a knife is fined.
There is still lots of colour in the garden, several things have come back into bloom,
Aster amellus, Michaelmas daisy. 
Albertine having a second flush/

even the Albertine rose has given a second flush
as well as lupines, there's even a delphinium that will be in flower by the weekend.
Thalictrum still flowering.
We have several different types of Aconite one which comes into flower very late, it's  giving a lovely splash of colour now.
One big surprise is the Amaryllis, this has decided to flower yet again, the third time this year, the second bulb also looks as though it might also flower yet again, we have done nothing to these bulbs except give them a little water when we remember, the bulbs have grown and need larger pots, or do they? as they are doing so well on neglect maybe this is the way to treat them.
Still plenty of French beans.
The French beans are still producing well, and the cauliflowers are the best we've ever had, far better than the earlier ones,
3lb after trimming.
after trimming they are weighing around three pounds each, I think that's a pretty good size, one cauli. lasts us for five meals, there's even bigger ones waiting to be cut, the leaks are also looking very good, we have two beds of these,
the first two we picked are from one of the raised beds that has now been removed, this left twenty leeks so we took a chance and transplanted them, they had two chances, live or die, it appears that they have survived the transplanting no sign of wilting at all, we will have plenty of leeks this winter.
One job that was put on the long finger during the summer was decorating our bedroom. The last time we went up to the  North was to buy paint for the outside of the cottage, at the same time I spotted some beautiful wall paper which I thought would be ideal for our bedroom, just the one wall behind the bed. Wallpaper in the republic requires a second mortgage, heaven only knows why it's so expensive, so we bought a couple of rolls just to give a lift to the room, I am very pleased with how it turned out.
Makes a change from plain painted walls.
We have realised that the last time we did any wallpapering was twenty eight years ago, since then we have lived with painted walls, easy to keep clean and change when you want to but not quite so cosy as wallpaper.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Out and about.

Organic Centre contemplation tunnel.
Now there's not quite so much to do in the garden we have been able to make a couple of trips out. The first one was to Ballina, a bustling small estuary town in Mayo.
The river Moy runs through it, and it is one of the very few places that has a wet fish shop, in fact Ballina has two of them but the second one sells things other than fish so we stick to the specialist shop. We make this trip once every month or so to stock up on good fish. Also in the area are several ruins of ancient Abbeys or Friaries.
The one we visited last week was Rosserk  Abbey, some describe it as a Friary,
I'm not too sure what the difference is, this was built around 1440 by the Joyce family, and was the home to Franciscan monks until around 1590 when it is reportedly burnt down by Sir Richard Bingham, 1st governor of Connacht under the reign of Elizabeth the 1st, no doubt trying to curry favour with the English court.
Like most of these buildings it sits in a prime location on the banks of the river Moy, it is doubtful if monks of this period ever suffered hardship given the positioning of so many of these wonderful old monuments. Good land, and plenty of fish from the river.
Possibly an old harbour?
In an adjoining field you can just make out the remains of walls which would probally have been part of the Abby, possible a small harbour, as it is a tidal river at this point. We sat and enjoyed our picnic,
watching curlews foraging for food, 
and then  were joined by a friendly Robin waiting for tit bits.

The next trip out was to the 'Organic Centre' in Rossinver Co. Leitrim for the annual Apple Day. The weather could have been better, and the service or rather lack of it in the cafĂ© left a lot to be desired. After waiting almost an hour for our food order to arrive we gave up and asked for our money back. By this time we were hungry, so decided we would have a barbequed burger, the barbeque was well advertised on the web site for the Organic Centre so naturally we assumed that the burgers would be organic beef, especially at a fiver a throw, it was only when I spotted cheese slices that I asked the question! I don't care if the meat came from the local butcher and from his own cows, this is the Organic Centre, supposedly a flagship for the 'Organic Movement', I for one do not expect to be served anything other than organic food in such an establishment.
Nice pumpkins.
Tomato tunnel.
We did a tour of the tunnels,
Such lovely colours.
even these were not as good as usual, they should have been overflowing with produce at this time of year, ours is.
Lots of grapes, and they are very tasty.
 Maybe they have had a change of management or the centre is now being run by committee,  whatever, it is not as good as it was just a year ago. Very disappointing. We did however come away with two bottles of freshly pressed apple juice, which was yummy, and a large bag of organic apples. Who would has guessed that the humble apple when grown non organically is subjected  up to thirty five times spraying with fifteen different chemicals being used, and 'they' wonder why there are so many people suffering from allergies etc. just look at what is added to so called whole food.
Now that summer is over the pottery classes are back to weekly, I haven't planned my next project yet, and the next class is tomorrow, possibly playing around with different colours and effects,
Before firing.
 you never know how an item will turn out once it's been fired, the colours change completely.
after firing.